Friday, July 18, 2008

The GODS of The Bible


“In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth”

The word for Gods in the Old Testament is Elohim.

Elohim is a plural noun, and the ‘im’ on the end denotes masculinity.

Christian scholars agree with the fact the word Elohim is plural, but attempt to argue that this plurality is negated when put alongside a singular verb. But we see in Genesis 20:13, Gen 35:7, 2 Sam 7:23, and Psalms 58, this proposition is not born out in fact. In these writings the word Elohim is followed by a plural verb.

More importantly if God is singular, why not simply use the singular term for God available at the time: Eloah? The word Eloah is, after all, used no less than 250 times in The Bible.

In my humble opinion the ‘gods versus god’ debate , does not surround the linguistics.

The writers of The Old Testament referred to multiple Gods ‘Elohim’ no less than 2,500 times, and they knew the difference between the plural and singular.

So let’s not forget, the word for multiply Gods appears ten times more in the Old Testament than description of a singular entity.

The Hebrew writers therefore used Gods and God where necessary.

“In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth” is the literal translation.

There are also other clear references to multiple Gods in the scriptures.

"Let US make man in OUR image". (Gen 1:26)

Christian scholars attempt to discount this text by claiming God is part of a trinity and therefore is in effect suffering a case of schizophrenia, by talking about himself to himself.

Besides which, this trinity business only occurs in The New Testament & not when the tracts referring to ‘us’ and ‘them’ were scribed.

A much more obvious conclusion is the God referred to in The Old Testament, is not alone.

Theologians however try and make the story fit the facts (simply cut and paste where necessary)

"Behold, the man has become like one of US” (Gen 3:22)

God clearly has some buddies.

And other Gods do pop-up in the pages in the scriptures.

To name but a few we have: Ashima, Baal, Bel, Chemosh, Dagon, Milcom, Nebo, Nibhaz, Rimmon, Tammuz.

More importantly to this debate – to the writers of the Bible these were real Gods in the sense of the term, not just historical entities:

“Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD (Yahweh)” (Sam 5:2-3)

But wait I hear you say, there are plenty of contrary passages where state there is only one God.

"Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4)

[ Footnote: Hold on, you guys are telling me ‘The Lord is one’?! I thought he was a trinity for one second? ]

“Yet for us there is one God,the Father,from whom are all things and for whom we exist”

Despite the texts which refer to ‘a’ God, in my mind the door is still open to the interpret that ‘this’ god has fellow entities.

There is nothing to discount my proposition that the God of the bible is but the ‘regional’ God of Earth and man should worship only him, and not say his twin brother Zeus who is off being adulated in some other part of the universe.

A simplified view of what I’m saying here is: the God of the Bible was allocated the heavenly caretakers role for planet Earth, but in no way is he alone (to accept that argument you must disregard the story of Jesus which indicates Gods can go forth and multiply, even if it means knocking-up the local populous without their permission)

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord (Yahweh), who name is jealous, is a jealous god” (Exodus 31:14)

When considering the plurality of Gods in The Bible you are faced with these choices.

1.) You believe God is a diverse character with a habit of conversing three ways with himself.

2.) All passages of the Old Testament which indicate plural theism, like the 2,500 usages of the word ‘Gods’ are not to be taken literally, and instead need to be ‘interpreted’ . Any confusion regarding these writings arises due to linguistics, and the times at which they were written.

3.) You believe literally in just the Biblical passages which support the proposition for one god, but disregard other passages which counter this position. Christians of course love engaging in this ‘jelly bean’ approach to the bible. Pick the ones you like, leave the ones you don’t.

4.) Combinations of 1, 2 and 3.

5.) When God talks about ‘us’ and ‘our’ he IS referring to other God like beings, and he wants mankind to worship but him and not his fellows, a small variety of which are mentioned by name. It’s obvious the Hebrew writers knew the difference between the words ‘God’ and ‘Gods’. Monotheism is a fallacy, best summed-up in this passage: (Deut 10:17) “For the LORD (Yahweh) your god is god of gods and lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome”

I find the most credible option to be number five.

7 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...
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Daniel said...

It points to the origins of Judaism in Canaanite polytheistic religion. The supreme god of the Canaanites was El, known as "father of the gods"; Elohim likely means "sons of El". Over time as Hebrew traditions evolved towards monotheism it became singularized. The origins of Yahweh are a little more mysterious, but it's possibly derived from the Babylonian god 'Ea' who was also part of a broad pantheon. I think it's probably fair to say that the Jewish god is a welding-together of various polytheistic Semitic deities. It's not surprising then that the earliest books of the Torah should contain traces of this polytheism.

James said...

"Besides which, this trinity business only occurs in The New Testament & not when the tracts referring to ‘us’ and ‘them’ were scribed."

Not really. The only unambiguous reference to the trinity in the New Testament that I am aware of is a forgery.

There is also the issue of those "sons of god" that pop up in Genesis and the book of Job. In Genesis these lesser deities mate with mortal women and create a race of giants prior to the Flood.

Anonymous said...

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord (Yahweh), who name is jealous, is a jealous god” (Exodus 31:14)

I checked 31:14 and it's not there. I almost called you bad names. It turns out to be in 34:14.

Does anyone know if there's a version of the Bible that's correctly translated, like using God/gods/Yahweh where applicable? I believe "virgin" is also mistranslated, the original texts say something like "young girl" or "donzel".

Anna Hayward said...

Annonymous, You're right. I believe the word translated 'virgin' actually meant 'unmarried woman under 25', and in such a culture (and the culture of the early Bible translators), that was automatically equated with virginity.

I vaguely remember reading something (I think it was a friend's thesis) which suggested 'virgin births' were not considered particularly unusual in the past, since nobody really understood how babies were conceived. So the statement "Behold, a virgin shall be with child", was rather like saying "a young, unmarried woman will have a baby". Apparently, even today, 1 in 200 US American mothers were virgins (so they say).

Sorry I can't give any references for this information - I used to study theology but its been a while.

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twowheelsdown2002 said...

I believe it is because the "Gods" were both male and female. That is why Genesis 1:27 reads "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." To create man in Gods image we had to be made male and female, just like God. It should read "So the gods created man in their image, in the image of the gods created they them, male and female created they them". Elohim is plural, and the plurality it not because of trinity bs, it is because our creators were male and female, just like us.